How to build your child's self-esteem? Team sports.

Written by: Ashley Campbell

NPN's Soccer Bash at Lil' Kickers' Chitown Futbol location is this Saturday, September 5! It's a great opportunity to introduce your kids to soccer. Below, Lil' Kickers explains why team sports are crucial to a child's physical and emotional development.

Your four- or five-year-old child is ready to take on new challenges! With their toddler days behind them, kids are poised for a period of rapid growth and development—physically, emotionally and socially—so it’s important to choose non-competitive sports and activities that help them develop these emerging skills.

Preschoolers are at the height of their creative play, which makes interacting with them fun! They’re still in awe of how things work in the world and are not afraid to ask questions. Their vocabulary has grown to more than 13,000 words! However, sharing may still be difficult, and the fear of embarrassment from not doing well can produce shyness and timidity.

Children need preparation to feel confident enough to enjoy competitive play—more than learning how to play physically. Children must understand the team concept, build trust and learn good sportsmanship. So, how do we create a culture of teamwork when these concepts involve a strong emotional element?

Building self-esteem through trust
Children at this age can’t yet articulate or define trust, though they know it when they feel it. When preparing children for team sports, it’s about getting children to trust themselves, trust that others won’t laugh if they do something incorrectly and establish a level of trust that evokes camaraderie. Strong self-esteem provides courage to try new things and risk making mistakes, as well as the emotional wherewithal to handle disappointments.

Rewarding effort, not outcome
Good sportsmanship is tough at any age because it requires the ability to control emotions. Cognitively, children at this age can’t see beyond the emotions attached to winning and losing. By emphasizing the goal of giving their personal best, children redirect their focus and learn how to manage their emotions.

According to world-renowned clinical psychologist John Gottman in his book Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, when we help children become aware of their feelings and then empathize with them, soothe them and guide them, children learn to control impulses, delay gratification, self-motivate and read others’ social cues. Learning to experience their emotions, validate them and move on is essential in developing a sense of good sportsmanship because it helps players develop the necessary resiliency to move beyond a game’s physical aspects.

Keeping it creative
Dramatic play is an important tool in a child’s developmental toolbox, offering a safe venue for practicing new skills, taking on new roles and resolving stressful situations. Dramatic play also has strong links to language development, problemsolving skill development and other cognitive strategies. Games that may appear “silly” often capture the attention of this age group. Parents should look for activities that are playful, yet intentional, giving them the challenge and fun to be successful in learning. When choosing extracurricular activities for your preschooler, keep these principles in mind and look for programs that focus on child development and age-appropriate skills. And remember that you can enforce all these concepts through play at home in addition to class time. Consistency is key!

Lil’ Kickers is a child-development program to help children ages 18 months to 12 years, at suitable developmental levels, to build strong physical, intellectual and emotional skills toward their success on and off the field. More than 3,600 kids are enrolled at five indoor and five outdoor locations.

Don't miss the opportunity to check out Lil' Kickers at NPN's Soccer Bash this Saturday! 

Posted on August 31, 2015 at 2:07 PM